Over 80 millions cats in the United States suffer from feline asthma. Feline asthma is a respiratory condition that affects airways with excess mucus build-up as well as inflammation of the lungs. Feline asthma symptoms are often overlooked, because they can mimic those of the common hairball. Overlooking coughing in your cat may be very serious and lead to life-threatening respiratory arrest. Just like asthma in humans, cats can have attacks when not enough oxygen is received in the airways.
Signs of feline asthma may be as mild as the occasional light cough or a wheezing sound. In chronic cases, a cat may cough along with labored, open-mouthed, heavy breathing. This could result in an asthma attack which could then lead to a life-threatening situation. Some cats may have no symptoms at all and suddenly are unable to breathe. General symptoms of feline asthma includes:
- Difficulty breathing
- Open mouth breathing
- Poor appetite
- Fast breathing with effort
- Blue lips and gums
- Gagging up foamy mucus
While there is no cure for feline asthma, there are several methods in managing it. Once diagnosed, veterinarians will usually prescribe corticosteroids to reduce inflammation in the lungs. This may include bronchodilators to dilate the airways. These types of drugs come in oral, inhaler and injectable forms. Other drugs and treatments for feline asthma have not yet been conclusively proven to work. Experimental treatments such as desensitization to specific allergens (similar to allergy shots in humans) and drugs intended to disrupt the metabolic pathways inflammation , show promise, but further research is necessary.
Prevention & Remedies
Once your cat is diagnosed with feline asthma you have several options in managing the triggers that may cause an attack. Eliminating environmental allergens that are causing respiratory distress in your cat is a good place to start. Here are some of the most common triggers of feline asthma:
Smoking: Consider smoking outdoors in the future. Or consider quitting, for your own health and the health of your kitty.
Fireplace smoke: Old fashioned wood-burning fireplaces can be converted to gas if it must be used.
Incense: Scented candles and plug-in air fresheners are not only bad for humans but feline asthmatics are affected.
Mildew and mold: A deep cleaning that may include a steam cleaner can remove mold and other allergens from tile floors, shower enclosures and walls. Professional services maybe be needed for cleaning central air/heating ducts.
Dust and dust mites: Use a vacuum cleaner with HEPA filters or one specially designed for pets. Replace curtains with wood blinds and consider hardwood floors or tile instead of carpeting.
Dry air: Dry air dries out the lining of your cat’s air passages causing coughing and making your cat more vulnerable to infection. Have a portable humidifier running while using your heater and in arid parts of the country.
Household chemicals: Use green cleaning products for you and your cats benefit.
Cat litter: Dust rises from clay litters making most of them bad for asthmatic cats.
Cat food ingredients: Treating feline asthma may require some adjustments to your cat’s food. This can be challenging, especially in a multi-cat household. The recommended diet for feline asthma is most likely a better diet for all of your pets.
Feline asthma affects both young and middle-aged cats. A veterinarian can determine if your cat has feline asthma. They will perform a physical examination and recommend diagnostic tests to determine the cause of the problem. Asthmatic cats can generally be treated successfully and live long lives.